Damon Linker, a self-described former “conservative intellectual” (he was an editor at First Things) believes that Hillary Clinton’s policy positions are “good enough” to earn the votes of current conservatives, given that a Donald Trump administration would pose a “national threat” and that most right-wing Hillary-hatred “lack[s] any rational connection to reality.”
Take Hillary’s scandals -- please, take them. “Every single accusation is trivial. Petty. Penny-ante,” Linker asserted in a Thursday column for The Week. “Yes, even the business about Clinton's private email server. And especially the septic tank full of hyped-up, conspiracy-laden nonsense that goes by the name of ‘Benghazi.’ (If well-meaning members of the conservative movement want to explore how the Republican electorate ended up hoodwinked by a transparent charlatan-demagogue like Donald Trump, they could do worse than reflecting on their own complicity in publicizing, or at least failing to defuse, this endless, cockamamie ‘scandal.’)”
The kids in The Family Circus blame their misbehavior on gremlins with names like Ida Know and Not Me. The Week’s Damon Linker believes grown-up conservatives do something similar when they deny what Linker sees as the plain truth: that they run the Republican party.
In a Tuesday column, Linker contended that the right-wing “counter-establishment” that first gained a share of power in 1981 now “simply is the conservative and Republican establishment…[But] because its ideological outlook was formed when it was out of power, this establishment seems incapable of thinking about itself as an establishment.” He charged that "by thinking of themselves as perennially outside the Republican power-structure, members of the counter-establishment conveniently exempt themselves from the need to admit and learn from their own mistakes. It's always someone else's fault.”
When it comes to battling President Obama, implies Paul Waldman, Republicans should (to borrow a phrase from Sinead O’Connor) fight the real enemy, not the cartoon ideologue of their imaginations.
“If you spend some time investigating what evidence Republicans offer when they call Obama divisive, what you find is not actually evidence at all, but their own skewed interpretations of events," wrote Waldman in a Tuesday column for The Week. “You might think he has been a good president or a bad one. But the idea that blame for the political divisions we confront lies solely or even primarily at his door is positively deranged.”
Over the past several years, many former or reformist conservatives have wondered how the Republican party might be reclaimed from its volcanically angry, Fox-News-and-talk-radio-driven base. One ex-conservative, The Week columnist Linker, suggests that righty intellectuals ought to catalyze the process.
In a Friday column, Linker wrote that he couldn’t understand “how an intelligent, well-read” person of any political stripe could have watched last week’s GOP presidential debate “and not come away disgusted.” He issued a challenge to “conservative intellectuals...to speak up and call the GOP field what it is: ignorant, insulting, and dangerous.”
Since even some conservatives thought that Hillary Clinton won Thursday’s Benghazi hearing, it stands to reason that lefty bloggers would be happy with the way things turned out.
In fact, not all of them waited until the hearing was over. Early in the afternoon, when Clinton still had several hours of testimony before her, Talking Points Memo editor and publisher Josh Marshall observed that “Hillary…looks poised; [Republicans are] radiating spittle.” As the hearings rounded third and headed for home, Esquire’s Charles Pierce sniped, “This was a performance piece for the people residing within the conservative media bubble…who already are too smart to be fooled by the Hildebeast and her alleged facts because Mark Levin has told them that they are too smart to be so fooled."
It’s a matter of political record that since at least 2009, Republicans have talked at length about health-care reform, especially alternatives to Obamacare. Apparently almost all of them were, as Jon Lovitz’s Master Thespian would put it, “Acting!” That’s essentially what The Week's Paul Waldman alleged in a Wednesday post.
“Republicans have faced a real health care problem for many years now, which is that health care just isn't their thing,” asserted Waldman. “It's one of those ‘mommy’ issues that liberals care about, while conservatives are much more likely to be interested in topics like tax policy or national defense. Yet throughout the Obama years, they've had to act like they both care about and understand the substance of this issue.”
The Week’s Paul Waldman agrees with conservatives that the undercover Planned Parenthood videos raise a profound moral issue, but disagrees sharply with them over what that issue is. In a Friday post, Waldman asserted that “this controversy simply has nothing to do with fetal tissue” and claimed that it’s really about the right’s disgust with women’s sexual “autonomy.”
“Republicans have always hated Planned Parenthood, not only because it provides abortions but because it's a forthright advocate on behalf of women's rights to control their own reproductive lives,” wrote Waldman. “Nothing is more horrifying to a certain kind of conservative than a woman who has sex because she wants to, and does so without being punished for her sin.”
The late NFL head coach George Allen had a favorite saying: “The future is now.” Conversely, The Week's Linker believes the Republican party’s future “will be delayed so long as [its] candidates remain beholden to voters who view politics primarily as a megaphone for broadcasting an ignorant, garbled howl of anger, fear, alienation, and resentment.”
In a Friday piece, Linker remarked that conservative activists, who tend to view events “through a fog of paranoia and conspiracy,” have gradually dragged down the party as they’ve become a larger and larger share of it. In Linker’s words, “They’ve grown and spread like a fungus (thanks to the fertilization efforts of Rush Limbaugh and Roger Ailes).” One recent consequence: the popularity among GOPers of the “vulgar blowhard” Donald Trump.
Pundits occasionally opine that someone or other is the face of a given political party. Paul Waldman of The Week implies that Donald Trump would be a fitting choice as the Republican party’s face, presumably drawn by a cartoonist, since Trump is “a walking caricature…created from everything Republicans believe” about matters such as money and patriotism. “Trump is the essence of contemporary Republicanism,” wrote Waldman. “From his jingoism to his willingness to present all kinds of weird ideas as facts…to his relentless oversimplification of complex issues…[it's] what you get when you take a typical Republican politician and make him a little dumber and more extreme — but just a little.”
Hillary Clinton’s call in a Thursday speech for federally mandated automatic voter registration and a minimum of twenty days for early voting won widespread applause in the lefty blogosphere. So did Clinton’s blasts in the same speech at alleged Republican efforts to throw a wrench into the ballot works for certain Democratic-leaning groups.
Two ringing endorsements of Hillary’s proposals and rhetoric came from The Week’s Paul Waldman and New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait.
Damon Linker, who opines for the newsmagazine The Week, thinks the so-called reform conservatives have a chance to pull the Republican party back towards the center, but predicts it won’t happen until after the GOP base -- currently “gripped by a form of political psychosis, doing furious battle with ideological phantoms of its own creation” -- nominates for president a “genuine right-wing radical” who's crushed at the polls a la Barry Goldwater. “Only that kind of blowout,” wrote Linker, “will exorcize the demons that have taken hold of the Republican soul in recent years.”
From Linker’s piece last Wednesday (emphasis added):